All posts filed under: Copyright

Unsplash GPL-compatibility concern should be a red herring

The question A reader of WP and Legal Stuff asks: “There’s quite a big debate going on at the moment about Unsplash’s new license. See: https://wptavern.com/unsplash-updates-its-license-raises-gpl-compatibility-concerns It would be great to a get a lawyer’s input on whether the new license is GPL compatible or not. Is it possible for individual photos to be GPL while having a restriction on the collection as a whole?” The short answer is that the new Unsplash licence imposes a prohibition on a certain kind of use of the licensed images that the GPL would not impose, but it shouldn’t matter because the GPL doesn’t require images bundled in a distributed theme folder to be GPL-licensed and nor should this be required for themes submitted to the WordPress.org theme repository’. There is, however, a potentially important respect in which I suggest the new Unsplash licence needs to be clarified to create greater certainty for the developers of products, like themes, that contain the images as discrete files, so those developers can be confident that the end users of their products …

How to apply the GPL to your themes and plugins (and avoid getting in the shi*)

Introduction “I wish this stuff could be easier!” Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking this or otherwise cursing the ins and outs of applying the GPL to your themes or plugins? Have you ever been worried that, perhaps, you’re not doing what the GPL requires or that you’ve overlooked a WordPress.org requirement? From a wide range of stories and comments I’ve seen around the web, I think Jamie’s story is one that rings true for many. So, if you’ve answered yes to one of these questions, you’re far from being alone and this post is for you. “How do I apply and comply with the GPL correctly?” If you feel this way, it’s not surprising. Indeed, if you’re only just getting into open source or releasing your first theme or plugin, I’d say it’s to be expected. I say that because not only do you need to understand a legally-oriented copyright licence but, if you wish to make your products available on WordPress.org, you also need to get to grips with the WordPress.org theme and plugin guidelines. And …

“I’d rather see [an] attorney’s attention spent … on clarity and brevity”

WordPress, Wix and the GPL The Wix controversy, if I can call it that, has stirred up quite a bit of emotion in the WordPress and wider tech and open source communities. I’ve given my thoughts on what I see as the main issues in my previous post “Some thoughts on the Wix mobile app story (updated)”. In reading a wide range of comments on the various news and blog articles on this story, it strikes me that many people don’t understand the GPL, either due to its complexity at the margins (and I assure you that, at the margins, it can bamboozle lawyers too) or, in some cases, because they haven’t read it. Then, in reading further through various comments, one comment on the WP Tavern story stood out to me. Lisa League wrote: “Spending time, money, and attention on court diverts it to attorneys instead of that valuable time money, and attention spent on software. … … this is where I’d rather see attorney’s attention spent – on clarity and brevity where possible in …

Some thoughts on the Wix mobile app story (updated)

The story Perhaps not surprisingly, Matt’s recent post “The Wix Mobile App, a WordPress Joint” caught my eye. Indeed, it caught both eyes. I’ve read through his post and I’ve read the Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami’s prompt reply, “Dear Matt Mullenweg: an open letter from Wix.com’s CEO Avishai Abrahami” as well as a Wix engineer’s reply in “How I Found Myself Accused of Stealing Code from WordPress”. The key points, it seems to me, are these: Matt has said that “Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license. The custom icons, the class names, even the bugs. You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team.” Matt has also said: “This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code. The GPL is what has allowed WordPress to flourish, and that let us create this code. Your app’s editor is built with stolen code, so your …

Content scraper plugins, contract and copyright

The story I thought I’d introduce this post by telling a story. It’s a story about Jim, an everyday guy who has a website for which he wants more content. Jim already works hard on his site, adding new posts frequently, but he wants more content to drive more traffic to his site and to help monetise his site. He can’t do it all alone. Jim finds a bunch of sites with interesting and relevant content that he thinks would be perfect for his own site. These sites don’t generate web feeds of any flavour so Jim does a trawl of WordPress plugins and finds a commercially available plugin in a well-known plugins marketplace that does exactly what he wants. All he has to do is: install the plugin; create a post or page in his site and click a new icon in the editor which opens a pop-up window that asks for a URL and a CSS selector; get the URL of the page on another site that has the content he wants and …

A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL – now available – 30% introductory discount

Finally… I’m pleased to be able to say that A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL is now out in the wild. You can find it right here. Outline Here’s a quick outline of the chapters: 1. Introduction: conception, birth and forking 2. Understanding the GPL licensing of WordPress 3. Common GPL-related questions 4. WordPress themes, the GPL and the conundrum of derivative works 5. The GPL and assumptions of automatic inheritance 6. Theme reviews, CC0, model releases and GPL-compatibility 7. Selling ThemeForest themes outside of ThemeForest 8. Reselling commercial plugins 9. The GPL and trademarks 10. Theme and plugin shop terms of use versus GPL freedoms Packages Three different packages, or editions, are on offer: 1. The business package If you’re into the business of developing WordPress themes or plugins (or both), you might want this package. You’ll get: the ebook (PDF) of A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL; a professionally narrated audio book, enabling you to listen to the book when you’re on the go (narrated by Steve Chase); and …

A human readable summary of the GPL?

In my ebook (A Practical Guide to WordPress and the GPL) which will be out within the next 6-8 hours, I’ve included a one page summary of the GPL which I hope will make it easy for people to understand the core concepts of the GPL. That summary outlines the position in relation to copying and distribution, fees, modifications/derivative works, distributing non-source forms, termination, and downstream licensing: This particular summary follows the flow of the clauses in the GPL and that’s why it flows through the subject headings I’ve just mentioned. One consequence of this common approach to summarising legal documents is that the discussion of a single topic may contain a summary of both a person’s rights and a person’s obligations. For example, the discussion of modifications / derivative works says: “You may modify the Program or any part of it and distribute the modifications or new work as long as modified files contain notices regarding the existence and date of changes and any work that you distribute or publish that contains or is …

Theme and plugin shop terms of use versus GPL freedoms

Introduction For a while now I’ve wanted to address an issue that niggles away at me every time I see it. I touched on the subject slightly at the end of Readers ask: About reselling commercial plugins (updated) but I wanted to explore it a bit more in its own post. There are so many theme and plugin shops out there now that you probably couldn’t count them all with even 20 hands. Perhaps not surprisingly, this multiplicity of WordPress businesses has resulted in a wide range of terms of use and licensing statements in relation to the themes and plugins they sell. Of course, what these businesses say in their terms is constrained – or should be constrained – by the requirements of the GPL, at least in situations where they’ve created derivative works of WordPress or other GPL’d code or where they’ve otherwise chosen to apply the GPL to their themes or plugins. In this post, I’m going to focus on theme and plugin shops that have expressly applied – or purport to …

How not to source images for your client’s websites

If you’re a designer who source images for a client’s website, do you ensure you and your client have the right to use them? An interesting wee tale A UK case from 2012 provides a number of important reminders for those who design and own websites, including public sector agencies (Hoffman v Drug Abuse Resistance Education (UK) Ltd [2012] EWPCC 2 (19 January 2012)). It’s an interesting tale about a website owner who copied photos from another website in the mistaken belief that they were Crown copyright photos that could be re-used without permission when, in fact, they could not. There’s a photographer, a charity, a web developer, a government-sponsored website, the photos and … a copyright infringement claim. This isn’t a WordPress-specific story, but one that may be of interest to some WordPress users. Briefly, the main facts appearing from the judgment are these: Mr Hoffman was the copyright owner of a range of photos of drugs; the defendant charity published copies of those photos on its website; the defendant had used a web …

Using stock imagery in your or a client’s WordPress site – beware of the terms of use

Introduction A designer friend once let me in on a secret, a secret she described as “the designer’s little secret”. She was referring to istockphoto.com as a preferred source of reasonably priced images for commercial and other use. That was many years ago now. Since that time istockphoto has become a part of Getty Images (and is now known as iStock) and we’ve seen a proliferation of competing stock imagery sites such as shutterstock.com, graphicriver.net, mychillybin.co.nz, dollarphotoclub.com, dreamstime.com, bigstockphoto.com and fotolia.com among many others. Stock images are everywhere these days, including on the pages of WordPress-driven websites the world over. I’ve used them, for both myself and clients, and I’ve reviewed the terms of use of multiple stock imagery sites that clients have been thinking of using, with a view to alerting them to risks of which they may need to be aware. Now here’s the thing: not all stock imagery websites are made equal. I’m not talking about the range, quality or cost of their images, but of the terms of use that govern …